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#11 BEACH MUSIC: A time of tans, blonds and hot pants

Beach Music, an On the Street Where I Livestories is really a tale of two cities; San Juan, Puerto Rico and Santa Monica, California. It was originally published in the LA Times Sunday Magazine.

Beach Music We came to California from Canada, with a detour to Puerto Rico that lasted one endless summer of a year. A year in which I turned 15, and my hair turned blond from living in the sun. “Psst,” the boys and men would call after me in the blue-cobbled streets of San Juan. “Psst! Hey, blondie. Psst! Hey, cutie pie.” I was devastated when my parents said we had to go, that it was time to leave the island so that my older brother, Russell, could get a first rate education. The plan was to drive cross country from Miami and settle in San Francisco so that my brother could finish high school before going on to UC Berkeley. But, once we got there in the fall of 1968, we found that …

Above Ground on the London Underground—Day 43: Heading to Hayes

 If it's Friday we must be back in London. Every Friday I take a virtual walking tour ‘above ground’ on the London Underground. Using my Tube guide & my fitbit® device, my goal is to walk 10,000 steps a day roughly following along the Underground route, reporting back here on Fridays with my findings. Here are the previous days. One more Piccadilly line post. This is Day 43.

Last week as we reached the end of the Piccadilly Line at Cockfosters, I was reminded that underground stations were used as air raid shelters during World War II. The people in this photograph look very settled in, clothes hung on pegs, bedding spread on the tracks!

And I wonder if my mother ever dashed into one. If that’s how it worked. She was a teenager in London, fourteen years old when the war broke out in 1939. Like millions of boys and girls from cities around England, she and her two younger brothers, Peter and Robin, were evacuated in September, sent to the English countryside where strangers took them into their homes. Kids were sent all over the world to Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Some children were even sent to the U.S. They called it Operation Pied Piper with 3.5 million children being evacuated in the first three days. 

Operation Pied Piper via DefenseMediaNetwork.com

These children look pretty happy and excited but for my mother, leaving her own mother was difficult. Relying on volunteer hosts, the government tried to keep families together but my mother found herself separated from the boys, put up in a house where she felt in the way and uncomfortable. Plus she hated leaving her own mother alone in London while her father and her eldest brother Don were both off fighting the war. 

Miserable, she was allowed to return home and eventually went to work as a clippie on the buses. My mother loved working on the red double-deckers, running up and down those stairs, taking money, making change. 

A British clippie ... not my mum

She was young, and even though it was wartime, like young men and women everywhere, she was alive and eager to live each moment to the limit. Growing up, I loved listening to her stories of dating Yank soldiers—she liked their American accents—sometimes barely making it home before curfew, diving under the Morrison bed when the bomb sirens squealed. 

My mum Enid 

I can’t imagine living under such conditions but she never talked about being afraid. The sound of the incoming bombs was as much a part of the soundtrack to her young life as the constant beeping of incoming texts and tweets are to the millennials of today.

Home was a house on Mansfield Drive in Hayes, Middlesex, on the outskirts of London. It’s where she grew up, the home she lived in until she was 23, when she left it behind to marry my dad. Cute couple, eh? 

My dad, Edward.

On the Uxbridge branch, the leg of the Underground that takes you to Hayes is the only remaining section of the Piccadilly Line I’ve yet to see. If I can dig up the address—I thought it was #10 Mansfield Drive, but google earth says there is no #10—I’ll see go there next week. Come with me?

Getting there is easy. I’ll hop on the Piccadilly Line right here at Cockfosters and take the tube back towards Heathrow. At Acton Town I’ll switch trains, take the tube to Uxbridge and walk the rest of the way. It’s a long train ride, but at over 20 miles an even longer walk. Not saying I couldn’t do it, but no way I’m going to try. I’m just too excited.

Link up to British Isles Friday hosted by Joy Weese Moll 


  1. Your parents are so dashing, and what memories they must have shared. A very scary time to live through indeed. My in laws always had a lady over for visits, she was from England, and she was telling me they didn't think they'd live through the bombings. She married an American soldier and they thought they'd probably die there. I liked hearing her talk about that period of time, something I'd only read about.

    Great photos and story.

  2. My favorite moment of the Lure of the Underground walking (and riding, naturally) tour, was when the guide talked about the stations as havens during World War II. She said that Londoners have an affection for their subway that other cities don't due to that collective memory.

    You might like Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis -- lots of memorable scenes in Underground stations: http://www.joyweesemoll.com/2015/10/30/blackout-and-all-clear-bookreview-brifri/

    1. Thanks Joy. I'll check them out.


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